Putting your hard drive in a freezer, or heating with a hairdryer, are two common “Internet Fixes” to repair a bad hard drive. While they both have a very slight chance of working, they are much more likely to cause serious damage. It’s a weekly occurrence that we get a previously “frozen” hard drive that is too damaged to be recovered. If your data is worth at least three hundred dollars, then freezing or heating your hard drive should never be attempted.
There are a few theories behind the hard drive freezer myth and heating myth. Some people say the temperature change from hot-to-cold or cold-to-hot will expand the metal inside the hard drive (in particular, the spindle/motor) and allow a non-spinning drive to spin again. Other people say that freezing will cool down a drive that has a problem overheating.
The truth is, even if freezing does allow a drive to spin again, it will only be momentarily (often only a few minutes) and will not work repeatedly. This will typically not be enough time to recover all your important data. And subsequent attempts will last for even less time (if they work at all).
When “freezing” a hard drive, the drive’s platters are being filled with condensation. These platters need to remain perfectly “pure” for the magnetic data to be read off of them. The circuit board (PCB) on the bottom of the drive, which is filled with electronic components, will get wet from the condensation and its electronics can easily become damaged once the drive is powered on. There is no question, the chances for a successful $300 Data Recovery greatly decrease after a drive has been in a freezer.
Here is a look at the top platter of a hard drive that was in a freezer for 1 hour (if you can’t tell, this looks really bad!):
If the hard drive has “heat” issues (which alone is extremely rare), it’s almost always caused by a faulty PCB, something we have a 95%+ success rate recovering data from. Solving “heat” issues using a freezer, is like pulling out a bad tooth with a rocket. It may work, but there are much more reliable and safer methods to recover your data.
In conclusion, the hard drive freezer myth should only be used as a last resort if you simply cannot afford $300 for your recovered data, or if your data isn’t worth $300. Even then, the chances of it working are minuscule and will likely end up further damaging the hard drive to the point that expensive level-3 data recovery (read: “very expensive data recovery”) is your only remaining option.
Still not convinced? Read this PCWorld article.
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